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Monday, February 13, 2012

Foreclosure numbers remain high in NH

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the last day in a three-day series looking at the state of New Hampshire’s housing market.

Despite signs of improvement in 2011, foreclosures in Nashua and most area communities remained at historically high levels that are almost unchanged from 2008, the first full year of the recession.

With a slowly improving economy, Jane Law, director of communications for the New Hampshire Housing Authority, said the numbers may have peaked last year, but she predicted a long, slow recovery in the housing market. There are no obvious signs that the situation will improve much this year.

“We don’t anticipate that there’s going to be a rapid improvement, by any stretch of the imagination,” Law said.

Foreclosures in Nashua, including residential and business, fell by 14 percent last year. There were 200 applications submitted last year, compared to 232 in 2010.

While an improvement, the 2011 foreclosure figure is slightly worse than 2009 and more than three times the number that occurred in the city in the last full year of robust growth, 2006.

In Manchester, the number of foreclosures remained almost unchanged for the fourth year, at 339. That is four times the level that the state’s largest city had in 2006.

Most local towns saw a drop in foreclosures last year, but a comparison to the start of the recession shows how bad they have gotten.

For example, Merrimack foreclosures dropped 6 percent while Hudson’s fell 12 percent. Yet in each town, the total remains virtually identical to the figure in 2008 and more than twice the number of pre-recession days.

More disturbing was the situation in Milford, which has seen its number of foreclosures steadily climb every year in the past half-dozen years. Foreclosures increased by 7 percent last year.

Housing officials say the foreclosure crisis started when dubious subprime loans blew up, but that the current problems are a function of a weak economy making it hard for people to handle housing costs built up when times were good. Also, joblessness and falling house prices take a toll.

“Before, if you lost a job, got a divorce, had a medical catastrophe so you couldn’t keep up with your mortgage, prices were going up, so you could sell and get out from under your mortgage, oftentimes get out with a profit,” Law said. “Today, you can’t do that.”

“Often, when people lose a job, even if they get a job again, it tends to be often for less money. So they can’t handle the mortgage, particularly when they’re trying to catch up, if they’ve gotten behind,” Law said.

The fall in housing prices, combined with rock-bottom interest rates, has made it easier for people who have money to get a home. But it seems likely that the wild housing market of a decade ago is gone for good.

“The old heady days of the early 2000s are definitely a thing of the past,” said Law.

“During the early 2000s … up to 2007, people were treating their houses like cash cows. Nothing can sustain that, no market can sustain that. It was an unrealistic expectation to think that was going to go on forever,” Law said. “It’ll never go back to the way it was. Lenders are never going to lend like that again.”

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashuatelegraph.com.

Foreclosures in Greater Nashua

Here are the number of foreclosures for each year as well as the percent change from the previous year.

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

AMHERST

31 72%

18 50%

12 -14%

14 40%

10 150%

BROOKLINE

12 -25%

16 129%

7 40%

5 0%

5 67%

HOLLIS

6 -50%

12 50%

8 -47%

15 114%

7 250%

HUDSON

65 -12%

74 -24%

98 48%

66 65%

40 344%

LITCHFIELD

13 -13%

15 -52%

31 94%

16 23%

13 1,200%

LYNDEBOROUGH

6 -57%

14 100%

7 40%

5 400%

1 -50%

MANCHESTER

339 -8%

367 10%

334 0%

335 74%

192 126%

MERRIMACK

73 -6%

78 -5%

82 6%

77 114%

36 125%

MILFORD

48 7%

45 13%

40 18%

34 278%

9 50%

MONT VERNON

5 -29%

7 40%

5 67%

3 50%

2 0%

NASHUA

200 -14%

232 18%

196 -23%

256 91%

134 127%

PELHAM

29 0%

29 32%

22 -31%

32 113%

15 15%

WILTON

7 -67%

21 91%

11 10%

10 67%

6 -45%

COUNTY

1,134 -5%

1,192 11%

1,074 -4%

1,113 77%

629 113%